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not, and did ; and so do we: we promise fair, and do nothing; and they that do best, are such as come out of darkness into light, such as said “ they would not,” and at last have better bethought themselves. And who can guess at any other reason, why men should refuse to be temperate ? For he that refuseth the commandment, first does violence to the commandment, and puts on a preternatural appetite; he spoils his health and he spoils his understanding; he brings to himself a world of diseases and a healthless constitution ; smart and sickly nights; a loathing stomach and a staring eye, a giddy brain and a swelled belly, gouts and dropsies ; catarrhs and oppilations. If God should enjoin men to suffer all this, heaven and earth should have heard our complaints against unjust laws, and impossible commandments : for we complain already, even when God commands us to drink so long as it is good for us; this is one of the impossible laws: it is impossible for us to know when we are dry, or when we need drink; for if we do know, I am sure it is possible enough, not to lift up the wine to our heads. And when our blessed Saviour hath commanded us to love our enemies, we think we have so much reason against it, that God will easily excuse our disobedience in this case; and yet there are some enemies, whom God hath commanded us not to love, and those we dote on, we cherish and feast them, and as St. Paul in another case, upon our uncomely parts we bestow more abundant comeliness.” For whereas our body itself is a servant to our soul, we make it an heir of all things, and treat it here already, as if it were in majority; and make that, which at the best was but a weak friend, to become a strong enemy; and hence proceed the vices of the worst, and the follies and imperfections of the best : the spirit is either in slavery or in weakness, and when the flesh is not strong to mischief, it is weak to goodness; and even to the apostles our blessed Lord said, “ The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
“ The spirit,” that is, o čow ävdgw us, “ the inward man," or the reasonable part of man, especially as helped by the Spirit of grace, that is willing; for it is the principle of all good actions, the èvegynsızov, “ the power of working' is from the spirit; but the flesh is but a dull instrument, and a broken arm, in which there is a principle of life, but it moves uneasily; and the flesh is so weak, that in Scripture to be “in
the flesh” signifies a state of weakness and infirmity; so the humiliation of Christ is expressed by being “ in the flesh," 9sos pavegwleis šv ougxi, “ God manifested in the flesh;” and what St. Peter calls "put to death in the flesh," St. Paul calls “crucified through weakness ;” and “ye know that through the infirmity of the flesh I preached unto you,” said St. Paul: but here, flesh is not opposed to the spirit as a direct enemy, but as a weak servant: for if the flesh be powerful and opposite, the spirit stays not there:
veniunt ad candida tecta columbæ: (Ovid.)
The old man and the new cannot dwell together; and therefore here, where the spirit inclining to good, well disposed and apt to holy counsels, does inhabit in society with the flesh, it means only a weak and unapt nature, or a state of infant
grace ; for in both these, and in these only, the text is verified.
1. Therefore we are to consider the infirmities of the flesh naturally. 2. Its weakness in the first beginnings of the state of grace, its daily pretensions and temptations, its excuses and lessenings of duty. 3. What remedies there are in the spirit to cure the evils of nature. 4. How far the weakness of the flesh can consist with the Spirit of grace in well-grown Christians. This is the sum of what I intend upon these words.
1. Our nature is too weak, in order to our duty and final interest, that at first it cannot move one step towards God, unless God, by his preventing grace, puts into it a new possibility.
Ουδέν ακιδνότερον γαία τρίφει ανθρώποιο, ,
Πάντων, όσσά τε γαίαν επι πνείει τε και έρπει. Οd. σ. 130. “ There is nothing that creeps upon the earth, nothing that ever God made, weaker than man;" for God fitted horses and mules with strength, bees and pismires with sagacity, harts and hares with swiftness, birds with feathers and a light airy body; and they all know their times, and are fitted for their work, and regularly acquire the proper end of their creation; but man, that was designed to an immortal duration, and the fruition of God for ever, knows not how to obtain it; he is made upright to look up to Heaven, but he knows no more how to purchase it than to climb it. Once, man went to
make an ambitious tower to outreach the clouds, or the preternatural risings of the water, but could not do it; he cannot promise himself the daily bread of his necessity upon the stock of his own wit or industry; and for going to heaven, he was so far from doing that naturally, that as soon as ever he was made, he became the son of death, and he knew not how to get a pardon for eating of an apple against the Divine commandment: Kaijuev qúou síxva ogyñs, said the Apostle :*
By nature we are the sons of wrath,” that is, we were born heirs of death, which death came upon us from God's
anger for the sin of our first parents; or by nature, that is, őtws, ånnows, '“ really," not by the help of fancy, and fiction of law, for so Ecumenius and Theophylact expound it;* but because it does not relate to the sin of Adam in its first intention, but to the evil state of sin, in which the Ephesians walked before their conversion; it signifies, that our nature of itself is a state of opposition to the Spirit of grace; it is privatively opposed, that is, that there is nothing in it that can bring us to felicity; nothing but an obediential capacity; our flesh can become sanctified, as o the stones can become children unto Abraham,” or as dead seed can become living corn; and so it is with us, that it is necessary God should make us a new creation, if he means to save us; he must take our hearts of stone away, and give us hearts of flesh; he must purge the old leaven, and make us a new conspersion ; he must destroy the flesh, and must breathe into us “spiri tum vitæ,” the celestial breath of life, without which we can neither live, nor move, nor have our being. No man can come unto me (said Christ), unless my Father draw him :” υπ' έρωτος αρπασθέντες ουρανίου, καθάπερ οι βακχευόμενοι και κορυβαν τιώντες ενθουσιάζουδι, μέχρις αν το ποθούμενον ίδωσι.
« The Divine love must come upon us and snatch us” from our imperfection, enlighten our understanding, move and stir our affections, open the gates of heaven, turn our nature into grace, entirely forgive our former prevarications, take us by the hand, and lead us all along; and we only contribute our assent unto it; just as a child when he is tempted to learn to go, and called upon, and guided, and upheld, and constrained to put his feet to the ground, lest he feel the danger by the smart of a fall; just so is our nature, and our state of
* Ephes. ii. 3.
flesh. God teaches us and invites us, he makes us willing, and then makes us able, he lends us helps, and guides our hands and feet; and all the way constrains us, but yet so as a reasonable creature can be constrained; that is, made willing with arguments, and new inducements, by a state of circumstances and conditional necessities : and as this is a great glorification of the free grace of God, and declares our manner of co-operation, so it represents our nature to be weak as a child, ignorant as infancy, helpless as an orphan, averse as an uninstructed person, in so great degrees that God is forced to bring us to a holy life, by arts great and many as the power and principles of the creation ; with this only difference, that the subject matter and object of this new creation is a free agent: in the first it was purely obediential and passive; and as the passion of the first was an effect of the same power that reduced it to act, so the freedom of the second is given to us in our nature by Him, that only can reduce it to act; for it is a freedom that cannot therefore choose, because it does not understand, nor taste, nor perceive, the things of God; and therefore, must by God's grace be reduced to action, as at first the whole matter of the world was by God's almightiness ; for so God “worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” But that I may instance in particulars: Our natural weakness appears best in two things, even in the two great instances of temptations, pleasure, and pain; in both which the flesh is destroyed, if it be not helped by a mighty grace, as certainly as the canes do bow their heads before the breath of a mighty wind.
1. In pleasure we see it by the public miseries and follies of the world. An old Greek said well, ojov åreyvūs υγιές εστιν αλλά είσι του κέρδους άπαντες ήττονες: “ There is amongst men nothing perfect, because men carry themselves as persons that are less than money,” servants of gain and interest; we are like the foolish poet that Horace tells of:
Gestit enim nummum in loculos demittere ; post hoc
Let him but have money for rehearsing his comedy, he cares not whether
like it or no; and if a temptation of money comes strong and violent, you may as well tie a wild dog to quietness with the guts of a tender kid, as suppose that most
men can do virtuously, when they may sin at a great price. Men avoid poverty, not only because it hath some inconveniences, for they are few and little ; but because it is the nurse of virtue ; they run from it as children from strict parents and tutors, from those that would confine them to son, and sober counsels, that would make them labour, that they may become pale and lean, that they may become wise : but because riches is attended by pride and lust, tyranny and oppression, and hath in its hand all that it hath in its heart, and sin waits upon wealth ready dressed and fit for action; therefore, in some temptations they confess, how little their souls are, they cannot stand that assault; but because this passion is the daughter of voluptuousness, and very
often is but a servant-sin, ministering to sensual pleasures, the great weakness of the flesh is more seen in the matter of carnal crimes, lust and drunkenness. “Nemo enim se adsuefacit ad vitandum et ex animo evellendum ea, quæ molesta ei non sunt: “Men are so in love with pleasure, that they cannot think of mortifying or crucifying their lust; we do violence to what we hate, not to what we love." But the weakness of the flesh, and the empire of lust, are visible in nothing so much, as in the captivity and folly of wise men. shall see some men fit to govern a province, sober in their counsels, wise in the conduct of their affairs, men of dis. course and reason, fit to sit with princes, or to treat concerning peace and war, the fate of empires and the changes of the world; yet these men shall fall at the beauty of a woman, as a man dies at the blow of an angel, or gives up his breath at the sentence and decree of God. Was not So. lomon glorious in all things, but when he bowed to Pharaoh's daughter, and then to devils ? And is it not published by the sentence and observation of all the world, that the bravest men have been softened into effeminacy by the lisping charms and childish noises of women and imperfect persons ? A fair slave bowed the neck of stout Polydamas, which was stiff and inflexible to the contentions of an enemy: and
suppose a man set, like the brave boy of the king of Nicomedia, in the midst of temptation by a witty beauty, tied upon a bed with silk and pretty violences, courted with music and perfumes, with promises and easy postures, invited by opportunity and importunity, by rewards and im